Volume 543, July 2012
|Number of page(s)||14|
|Published online||05 July 2012|
Expansion of magnetic clouds in the outer heliosphere
1 Instituto de Astronomía y Física del Espacio, CONICET-UBA, CC. 67, Suc. 28, 1428 Buenos Aires, Argentina
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
2 Departamento de Física, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1428 Buenos Aires, Argentina
3 Instituto Antártico Argentino (DNA), Cerrito 1248, CABA, Argentina
4 Observatoire de Paris, LESIA, UMR 8109 (CNRS), 92195 Meudon Principal Cedex, France
5 Solar-Terrestrial Center of Excellence – SIDC, Royal Observatory of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium
Received: 27 December 2011
Accepted: 5 April 2012
Context. A large amount of magnetized plasma is frequently ejected from the Sun as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Some of these ejections are detected in the solar wind as magnetic clouds (MCs) that have flux rope signatures.
Aims. Magnetic clouds are structures that typically expand in the inner heliosphere. We derive the expansion properties of MCs in the outer heliosphere from one to five astronomical units to compare them with those in the inner heliosphere.
Methods. We analyze MCs observed by the Ulysses spacecraft using in situ magnetic field and plasma measurements. The MC boundaries are defined in the MC frame after defining the MC axis with a minimum variance method applied only to the flux rope structure. As in the inner heliosphere, a large fraction of the velocity profile within MCs is close to a linear function of time. This is indicative of a self-similar expansion and a MC size that locally follows a power-law of the solar distance with an exponent called ζ. We derive the value of ζ from the in situ velocity data.
Results. We analyze separately the non-perturbed MCs (cases showing a linear velocity profile almost for the full event), and perturbed MCs (cases showing a strongly distorted velocity profile). We find that non-perturbed MCs expand with a similar non-dimensional expansion rate (ζ = 1.05 ± 0.34), i.e. slightly faster than at the solar distance and in the inner heliosphere (ζ = 0.91 ± 0.23). The subset of perturbed MCs expands, as in the inner heliosphere, at a significantly lower rate and with a larger dispersion (ζ = 0.28 ± 0.52) as expected from the temporal evolution found in numerical simulations. This local measure of the expansion also agrees with the distribution with distance of MC size, mean magnetic field, and plasma parameters. The MCs interacting with a strong field region, e.g. another MC, have the most variable expansion rate (ranging from compression to over-expansion).
Key words: magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) / Sun: coronal mass ejections (CMEs) / solar wind / interplanetary medium / magnetic fields
© ESO, 2012
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